CNN Beijing Bureau and Jake Kwon, CNN
According to videos shared on social media, workers at China’s largest iPhone assembly plant were seen clashing with police on Wednesday, some of them rioting.
Videos show hundreds of workers confronting law enforcement officers, many in white suits, at Foxconn’s campus in central China’s Zhengzhou. In the footage, which has now been blocked, some protesters could be heard complaining about their pay and sanitary conditions.
The scenes come days after Chinese state media reported that more than 100,000 people had applied for positions advertised as part of a massive recruitment drive at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant.
Apple has faced significant supply chain constraints at its assembly plant and expects iPhone 14 shipments to arrive just in time for the key holiday shopping season. CNN has reached out to the company for comment on the situation at the plant.
The Covid outbreak had forced the site to shut down last month, prompting some worried factory workers to flee.
In early November, videos of many people fleeing Zhengzhou on foot went viral on Chinese social media, prompting Foxconn to step up efforts to get its workers back. To try to contain the fallout, the company said it had quadrupled daily allowances for factory workers this month.
In a video on Wednesday, workers were heard saying that Foxconn had failed to deliver on its promise of an attractive bonus and pay package after coming to work at the factory. Many complaints have also been posted anonymously on social media platforms, accusing Foxconn of changing the previously advertised salary package.
In a statement in English, Foxconn said on Wednesday that “the allowance has always been fulfilled based on contractual obligations” after some new workers at Foxconn’s campus in Zhengzhou approached the company on Tuesday about a labor allowance.
Workers were also heard in the videos complaining about insufficient measures against Covid, saying that workers who tested positive were not separated from the rest of the workforce.
Foxconn said in an English statement that online speculation about workers testing positive for Covid and living in dormitories on Foxconn’s campus in Zhengzhou is “arguably false”.
“The dormitory environment is subject to standard disinfection procedures before new employees move in, and only after a government inspection of the space has been completed are new employees allowed to move in,” Foxconn said.
A search for the word “Foxconn” on Chinese social media now yields few results, suggesting heavy censorship.
“Regarding violent behavior, the company will continue to communicate with employees and the government to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” Foxconn said in a statement in Chinese.
An essential center
The Zhengzhou factory is the world’s largest iPhone assembly site. That typically accounts for about 50-60% of Foxconn’s global iPhone assembly capacity, according to Mirko Woitzik, director of global intelligence solutions at supply chain risk analytics provider Everstream.
Apple earlier this month warned of disruptions to its supply chain, saying customers would feel the impact.
“We now expect lower shipments of the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max than we previously expected,” the tech giant said in a statement. “Customers will experience longer wait times to receive their new products.”
Last week, the wait time for these models in the United States reached 34 days, according to a UBS report.
Public discontent has grown over China’s relentless zero-covid policy, which still involves strict lockdowns and travel restrictions nearly three years after the pandemic.
This sentiment was evident last week when social media showed imprisoned residents of Guangzhou breaking down barriers meant to confine them to their homes and taking to the streets in defiance of strict local orders.
— Michelle To, Simone McCarthy, Wayne Chang, Julianne Liu and Kathleen Magramo contributed to this report.
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